The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (21): Greatest female opera duet

Lucia Popp and Brigitte Fassbasender

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  • This faithful, effective, and still-popular staging has just been axed by Munich’s idiot Bachler, to be replaced by some crap.

    • Spectacular, sublime, highly intelligent stage and costume design by the great Jürgen Rose, and staged by Otto Schenk, probably the ideal director for this opera. It doesn’t get better than that. This production should be preserved and not thrown away, especially not now, when money is needed for for far more important things.

  • …and Carlos Kleiber, who draws superlative playing from the Bayerisches Staatsorchester and supports his singers with uncanny sensitivity. Heavenly.

  • Magnificent in every respect, and the production reminds us of what opera staging should be like – true to the intentions of the composer! Oh, if only…if only!

  • Brigitte Fassbaender was indeed memorable in Rosenkavalier…..in the 1970’s at Covent Garden with Kiri Te Kanawa as the Marschallin…….it was magical…..
    but Garanca at the Staatsoper in Vienna was a worthy successor in the fabulous
    Otto Schenk production…….the music is sublime……the singers come and go
    but Richard Strauss’ music goes on forever…….

    • Brigitte Fassbänder didn’t sing Octavian to Dame Kirk te Kanawa’s Marschallin at the ROH. Her 1975 outing in the role was with Dame Gwyneth Jones. Dame Kiri’s London Octavians were Agnes Baltsa and Anne Howells.

  • This is, surely, one of the greatest performances of this duet… and will remain on that list, like Pelé or Babe Ruth, as long as we play the “greatest this or that” game. Aren’t we lucky to live in a time when we can experience a performance like this without having actually been there? And then experience it again and again? For free?

    On a lighter note, a game I like to play is to imagine operas cast with wonderful wingers who would be absolutely wrong for the roles: for example, this duet sung by Sutherland and Horne, or Tebaldi and Simionato… or in the present day, maybe Netrebko and Dolora Zajic?

    I invite others to play this game with this and other operas. Feel free to mix up singers from different eras, who would never have sung together.

    For example, Salome:

    Salome — Renata Scotto (she sang the Marschallin, so why not?)
    Herod — Pavarotti (a hard role to learn if you can’t read music, but at least it’s a role that would allow you to snack onstage)
    Herodias — Renée Fleming (since they like to cast great singers who have entered the “venerable” stage of their careers)
    Narraboth — Ian Bostridge (would surely bring previously unsuspected psychological depth to this role)
    Jochana’an — Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (he probably sang it anyway)

      • I loooove Cappuccilli. He would be terrible!

        I do have a recording of Lohengrin, in Italian, with Tebaldi as Elsa. I need to dig that out and listen to it.

    • Bostridge might have worked, to a degree, but Scotto and Pavarotti had no command of German and Herodias is a mezzo role.

      To me a “bass-baritone” is just a bass with a proper, complete top, and DFD was no bass! Still, he sang Jochanaan for Karl Böhm for a run in 1970.

  • It may be interesting to be reminded that Rosenkavalier was severely criticized by Strauss’ collegues, by critics, by academics, for ‘playing to the gallery’, for being ‘revisionist’, for ‘betraying his talent’, for ‘betraying musical progress’ which he ‘helped’ so much with Salome and Elektra, for ‘becoming convervative’ and ‘traditionalist’. In most music history books, up till the late 20th century, Rosenkavalier was treated as a work which needed to be written-down as kitsch and giving-up the avantgarde of the time – premiere was in 1911, after Schoenberg’s explorations of morbid and desperate progressiveness, and far after Debussy’s ‘demolition of tradition’. The incorporation of many elements of his style of both earlier operas was not noticed, nor was the daring rejuvenation of tradition, giving it a new, inspired life. Only with the advent of ‘postmodernism’, which allows playfulness with different styles irrelevant of historic context, some awareness began to peep through the academic prejudices. But all of this is irrelevant anyway – Strauss simply did what he did best, and found the musical language best suited for the subject and Hofmannsthal’s fine libretto.

    That Strauss also had some practical, opportunist considerations of success with the audience in mind, was merely a ‘happy coincidence’ – and that aspect is responsible for the flaws in the work, like the silly waltzes which stick-out as cheap compromises, conflicting with the plot. Also his wife Pauline must have been responsible, to some extent, for S’s choice of musical language: she criticized him relentlessly over Salome and Elektra, warning him that more of ‘that avantgarde stuff’ would threaten their household budget in the long run, seeing Schoenberg’s continuing struggles with poverty. Running a large villa with servants at Garmisch was not something she was willing to give-up for Art. But in the end, most of Rosenkavalier is just very good music, with the 3 preludes to the acts as orchestral masterpieces, the duets, and as central highlight not the last trio (which is beautiful in itself) but the concluding scene of act 1 which drew the most tender and psychologically penetrating music from Strauss’ imagination, something he never achieved later-on up till the Four Last Songs.

  • The performance of the opera I have heard at the Munich Festival in 1982 (with Moll as Ochs) was indeed the best I have attended of the work… until Karajan’s run at the Salzburg Festival in 1983 and 1984 (five performances in all). Pity Janet Perry (though more than acceptable) was no match for Popp, but Karajan was unsurpassable.

  • tomorrow (easter Monday) wiener Staatsoper is Broadcasting Rosenkavalier with Kleiber conducting. free Streaming…

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